Title: Between the Shores
Word count: 4090
Rating: Adult content: sex, hurt/comfort.
Warning: Spoilers for series 1, and I am making assumptions about post-hiatus.
Summary: “Love changes you—for the better, if you’re lucky—and I don’t know if I can handle how you changed me. But you did change me, Jack, and then you were gone.”
Owen gave Jack a sedative before they left the site, and once Jack was safe back at the Hub and the weevil was in the cells, the arguing began. “He needs a hospital,” said Gwen.
“Oh, right, and what’ll we tell them?” said Owen. “That he’s broken every bone in his body but give him a few days and he’ll be fine! They’ll lock him up! Or us. Or both. He should stay here.”
“It’s not safe enough here,” Tosh said. “Or quiet enough. We should take him home.”
“He doesn’t have a home,” Owen said. “We can’t leave him alone. He should stay here.”
Sitting beside Jack’s still body, Ianto heard their voices but the words meant nothing. He wanted to hold Jack’s hand but his fingers were swollen and multicolored with bruises. He wanted to touch Jack’s face but the cheekbone was shattered.
The argument was still going around—hospital, a flat, staying at the Hub, a private sanitarium—and Ianto decided he’d had enough. He said, his voice quiet enough to cut through theirs, “I have a place.”
They all fell silent, and he could feel their eyes on him.
“I have an uncle who has a cottage near Three Cliffs Bay. He only uses it in the summer. He fancies himself a painter.”
Tosh said, “Who will look after Jack?”
“I will.” He looked at her steadily. “He only needs someone to make sure he’s all right. I can do that.”
“Of course you can,” said Gwen, “but are you certain you can do it on your own?”
“I’m certain.” He watched Jack again. Bruises around both his eyes. His swollen nose was bleeding again. Ianto took out a handkerchief and carefully wiped up the blood.
Owen said decisively, “He’s right. The important thing is Jack, and we can manage here. You’ll be all right, won’t you, Ianto? Won’t go out of your mind with boredom?”
“Not at all,” Ianto said.
“Right. Let’s get moving.”
* * *
Ianto went home long enough to pack a week’s worth of clothes and make a phone call. His uncle said he’d have the caretaker leave the key for him under a flowerbox, and added, “If your friend needs a doctor the nearest one is in Woebly.”
“He doesn’t need a doctor,” Ianto said. “He only needs rest.”
When he returned to the Hub the SUVs were ready to go, Jack’s sleeping body stowed carefully in the back of one with Owen taking his pulse. “Slow but steady,” Owen said and climbed out of the SUV. “He’ll survive the trip, at least.”
Ianto rode with Gwen, frequently looking back at the other SUV behind them. Gwen had a “buck up, soldier” smile on her face the entire drive. “He probably won’t even need the entire week,” she said cheerfully. “No one could want a better nurse than someone who cares about you.”
“Thank you,” Ianto said.
“But you’ll call us if you need us, won’t you? Even for the smallest thing.”
“I’ll call.” He turned back to look at the other SUV.
The cottage was made from local black stone, situated near the cliffs of the bay. Ianto found the key, as promised in the flowerbox of hydrangeas nailed next to the door, and he and Owen carried Jack inside to the bedroom on the ground floor. Upstairs, under the roof, was another small bedroom and a dusty storage room filled with rolled-up canvases and dried-up tubes of paint. It was clearly a partially-used dwelling: there were few books, no electronics, and the coating of dust was a good three or four months old.
The nearest village was ten minutes away on foot, a mere skip by SUV, so Gwen and Tosh went to buy them food and supplies while Owen got Jack situated. “Mainly,” he said, giving Ianto a box of syringes and medication, “give him one of these every four hours, especially during the first day. He’ll probably be more lucid tomorrow and tell you he doesn’t need it, but I wouldn’t believe him until at least the day after tomorrow. And if you need us for anything—”
“I know,” Ianto said. “I’ll call.”
Tosh and Gwen returned with a good supply of basics, fruit and bread and cheese and eggs, and Gwen said as she put things away, “Make sure he gets plenty of protein and calcium. He probably knows how the regeneration works better now than he did but it wouldn’t hurt to give him building blocks.”
“Plenty of vitamins, yes,” Ianto said. “I’ll take good care of him.”
“We know you will, Ianto,” said Tosh. “It’s just—” She looked at Gwen helplessly.
“So much,” said Gwen. “So much to deal with.”
Their expressions were so concerned. Ianto had thought it was worry about Jack but he realized, looking from one to the next, that it was actually for him. After the kiss in the Hub—after how obviously and dreadfully Ianto had missed him while he was away—”I know he’s not Lisa,” he said and swallowed, and the three of them erupted in protests. “No,” he said, “no, it’s all right. Go on. I can handle this.”
Tosh hugged him. Gwen hugged him. Owen slapped his back and said something supportive, and then they were in the SUV and gone.
Ianto took a deep breath and set his shoulders. The cottage was quiet except for the ticking of a clock—Tosh must have wound it, it seemed like something she would think of—and the sounds of the sea. He went into the bedroom and watched Jack sleep for a while: no movement on his part, except for his eyes behind his eyelids when he dreamed.
Ianto changed out of his suit for jeans and a t-shirt, and set about cleaning. If they were going to live here for a week, he didn’t want to deal with dust.
* * *
The first day was exactly what he expected. Jack slept. Ianto give him the injections and watched as the bruises first grew dark and then began to fade, as the bones reset in their splints, as the swelling began to subside. Ianto fed him carefully, sips of water and broth, washed his body and changed the sheets.
Around two a.m. the second day, Jack opened his eyes.
“Where . . . am I? Who’s . . . there?”
Ianto was asleep in the armchair he’d dragged beside the bed, and he started up at the sound of Jack’s voice. “Relax, you’re safe,” he said and lay his hand on Jack’s arm, removing it as quickly as he touched him.
“Ianto,” Jack said, his voice rough and tired. “Where are we?”
“Near Woebly. It’s a family cottage. I could open a window so you can hear the ocean.”
Jack looked at him without turning his head. “I don’t . . . remember . . . what happened.”
“You were pushed off a building, chasing a weevil. You landed badly.” He touched Jack’s little finger: it, at least, was not broken. “Any other man would have died.”
“Lucky . . . me,” Jack breathed and Ianto faintly smiled. “Is it . . . just you . . . and me?”
“Yes. The others are back at the Hub.” He added, stroking Jack’s finger, “I’m counting these as personal days.”
“They won’t . . . be counted . . . against you.”
It was such a labor for him to speak that Ianto felt guilty for even attempting to make a joke. “It’s time for another sedative. You need your rest.”
Ianto inhaled. “The more you sleep the faster you’ll heal.”
“I can . . . sleep . . . on my own.”
“But the pain, sir.”
“I can . . .” Another breath that seemed to fight its way out of his chest. “Handle the pain.”
Ianto squeezed his finger and let it go. “I’m going to give it to you anyway. You realize that.”
Jack smiled. It must have hurt, with the shattered cheekbone and broken nose, but he smiled anyway. “I know.”
* * *
Late in the morning of the third day, Ianto made porridge. He brought it and juice and tea into Jack, and hastily put down the tray when he saw Jack was trying to sit up. “Sir, you’re not ready!”
“I can’t lie still for another second,” Jack said, his face ashen as he tried to push himself upright. Ianto stacked pillows behind him and Jack lay back, panting with pain, sweat at his hairline. “Thanks.”
“I’ve tried to move you. Roll you about a bit. Prevent bed sores.”
Jack nodded, still getting his breath back. “Yes.”
“Anyway. Breakfast. You’re hungry?”
“Very.” He watched Ianto move the tray closer, sit on the edge of the bed, take the bowl and spoon. “Are you going to feed me?”
“Yes, sir. Is that all right?”
Jack closes his eyes a moment and smiled like he didn’t realize he was doing it. “Yes. Of course it is.”
* * *
By the night of the third day Jack pulled off the splints and insisted he could stand, and Ianto helped him to the loo for a proper bath. “No more cleaning up after me,” Jack said firmly, though he did need Ianto to help him stay upright at the toilet.
“It’s nothing I haven’t seen before, sir,” Ianto said in his mildest tone. It was easier than he expected, really: he was only distracted by memories now and again while he soaped Jack’s back—in my shower Jack behind me fucking me with short, hard strokes, his hands on my belly— and shampooed his hair—Jack curled around me his cock in my mouth my cock in his oh god the taste of his come—and carefully dried him off —legs thighs arms oh god I have kissed him here and here and here—with the softest towel in the linen closet. The numerous bruises all over Jack’s body, some of them bigger than the span of Ianto’s hand, were almost enough to drive away any thoughts of sex.
—Jack’s hands on mine, palm to palm, holding them over my head “don’t come Ianto don’t come yet don’t come” and I tried I tried but I had to come or I would have died—
He changed the sheets while Jack dozed in an armchair in the cottage’s tiny lounge, and when Ianto came to fetch him and put him in bed again, Jack held out his hand and said sleepily, “Just sit with me a while, won’t you?”
Ianto took his hand, hesitated, and then sat on the floor at his feet. He heard Jack chuckle as he leaned his head against Jack’s knee and closed his eyes.
Jack let go of his hand and started stroking his head, slowly following his hairline. “You’re wearing yourself out, nursing me.”
“I’ve no complaints, sir.”
“Is that so.” He scratched his nails over Ianto’s scalp and Ianto inhaled sharply. “It hasn’t escaped my notice that things are . . . different, since I came back.”
Ianto opened his eyes and wondered if he should move away. “That’s so, sir.”
“Why? Weren’t you happy before?”
Ianto clenched his hands, and forced them to relax. “I was.” He got to his feet. “Are you going to want a sedative tonight?”
“No,” Jack said, watching him with concern. “I don’t need help sleeping. Ianto—”
“It’s the past, sir,” Ianto said. He swallowed and held out his hands. “Give me your arm and I’ll help you up.”
“We need to talk about this.”
“I don’t believe there’s anything to talk about, sir.” He held out his hands more insistently. “You need to rest.”
Jack’s keen blue eyes studied him, then he sighed and put his hands into Ianto’s. They managed to get him upright; Ianto kept an arm around his shoulders and Jack held onto his waist as they maneuvered back to the bedroom. He sat Jack on the side of the bed and helped him out of the dressing gown, lay him down and covered him with the duvet.
Jack was silent through all of this, but Ianto refused to let himself worry. “Call me if you need anything, sir,” he said and turned off the light.
“Ianto,” Jack said, and Ianto turned back.
“I need you.”
Ianto went to him. “What do you require, sir?”
Jack’s voice was barely above a whisper. “Stay with me.”
“I need to finish cleaning up from supper. I won’t be long.”
“Ianto,” Jack said, and it sounded like begging, like desperation, “stay with me. Please. Sleep with me. Get into this bed and sleep with me.”
I missed you so much I couldn’t breathe, Ianto thought, and said out loud, hating how his voice shook, “Don’t do this to me, sir.” He fled the bedroom for the kitchen, where the running water in the sink helped the night waves cover any sounds he might make.
* * *
He fell asleep on the couch in the lounge, and woke to the smell of coffee brewing and the sound of eggs cooking. Ianto sat up, confused, and Jack called to him from the kitchen, “I feel excellent today!”
“Don’t overdo it, sir,” Ianto mumbled and rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hand.
“After breakfast let’s go for a walk. I want to see this ocean I’ve been listening to all week.”
“If you’re sure you’re up to it, sir,” Ianto said and went into the kitchen, to see Jack attempting to cook while sitting in a chair.
“I’m up for a short walk, and it’s not far, is it? Ten minutes or so?”
“No, it’s not even that far,” Ianto said and took the spatula. “The eggs are burning.”
Jack pushed back from the stove and propped up his feet on another chair, folding his hands over his belly. “You never came back last night.”
“I fell asleep elsewhere.”
Ianto slid the eggs from the pan onto plates Jack had waiting, and checked the top of the range for toast. No toast—Jack was not that ambitious. He put the plates on the table.
“Ianto,” Jack said and leaned forward, catching his hand as he passed. “Ianto.” Insistently. Squeezing his hand.
Ianto looked down at him: Jack looked less like the victim of a severe beating and more like someone who’d been awake for four or five days, which was an improvement. And certainly he was carrying himself gingerly, but it was now only a matter of the swelling to subside and the bruises to fade. “Are you ready to return to Cardiff, sir?”
“No. I’m ready for you to tell me what happened to make you hardly able to look at me anymore.”
Ianto removed his hand from Jack’s grip. “You left,” he said and got the coffee pot from the percolator.
“I came back,” Jack pointed out.
“Yes,” Ianto said, “but first you left.” He put the coffee pot on the table and gripped the back of a chair with both hands. “Please just leave it, sir. There’s nothing to say.”
“There’s so much to say you don’t know where to start,” Jack said, regarding him steadily.
Ianto sighed in exasperation. “Fine. Fine. You want to know what happened? You left. You went with your Doctor and I missed you so much I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I missed you so much and you just left and when you came back it was like nothing had happened and you didn’t miss me at all. God! You’d never understand.”
“I do understand,” Jack said quietly. “You missed me.”
“Yes,” Ianto snapped. “And you didn’t! You didn’t come back because you missed me, you didn’t come back because you wanted me, you didn’t come back because I offer you something no one else can. Owen was right. I’ve never been anything more than your part-time shag and it’s time I faced up to it.” Jack’s expression, patient, almost pitying, was more than Ianto could bear. He said, “I’m going for a walk,” and slammed the door behind him on his way out.
He didn’t turn around when Jack called, “Ianto, stop. I can’t keep up with you,” but he did stop and wait. Jack had found one of the Aran sweaters Uncle David kept in the cottage, big enough to fit Jack and a few close friends.
Jack put his arm around Ianto’s shoulders and leaned their foreheads together. “I missed you. Please believe me. I missed you. I didn’t come back just for you but you’re part of why I came back.”
“I was straight before I met you,” Ianto said, not ready to forgive him yet. “I’d never fucked another man before you.”
“I know, Ianto,” Jack said and kissed him, holding his face, his other hand on the back of Ianto’s neck. “I know.”
“I went to a gay bar. I had a drink. I watched them. I saw them watch me. A few tried to chat me up—all very nice, good-looking blokes—but none of them were you.”
Jack kissed him again. “I never meant to change you.”
“But that’s what love does,” Ianto said savagely. “Love changes you—for the better, if you’re lucky—and I don’t know if I can handle how you changed me. But you did change me, Jack, and then you were gone.”
“Shh,” Jack soothed him, and there were more kisses and Ianto tried to push him away but somehow ended up pulling him closer by his ridiculous sweater.
“I hate you,” Ianto said into Jack’s neck. “I hate that you’re never going to love me back.”
Jack inhaled like he’d been slapped, but just held onto Ianto tighter and kissed his hair. “Hate me, then. Hate me if it helps.”
“Nothing helps. Having you back doesn’t help. Seeing you at your worst doesn’t help. I’m emptied your fucking bedpan and I still—I still—God, I missed your mouth. I missed your taste and your skin and your scent. I missed you so fucking much.”
Jack murmured to him soothingly, holding him, and Ianto clung to him, head buried in his neck.
“I missed you so much I couldn’t eat. But I started eating again. I missed you so much I couldn’t sleep. But I started sleeping again. I missed you so much it hurt to breathe, but I kept breathing. I’ll get over you. I will.” Ianto drew in a rough breath and lifted his head. “I have to.”
Jack didn’t let him go, still watching him with sad eyes. He whispered, “Why?”
“Jack, don’t do this to me.”
“What am I doing?” he said, serious. “Why is it so vital that you get over me? Don’t you want me anymore, Ianto?”
“Of course I do! But you’re breaking my heart.”
Jack leaned their heads together and breathed, “Oh, Ianto.”
“I don’t want the crumbs, Jack. And no one has all of you.” He held onto Jack’s hip through the sweater. He could feel Jack’s breath against his cheek. He whispered, “I don’t know what to do anymore.”
Jack thumbed his cheek. “I had to go. I had to. The Doctor is my friend—and he’s more than that. He saved my life. He gave me this. We—he told me so much about my past, about things I’ve been missing, things I’ve needed.”
“So you were off with your one true love and we had to fumble along in the dark.”
“I came back. Hate me for leaving if you need to but don’t hate me for returning.”
Ianto looked at Jack, his playful face so serious, his bright eyes begging for—what? Understanding? Patience? “Why did you come back, sir? Why couldn’t you just let me be?”
Jack kissed him, still holding the back of his neck, and he slid his other hand over Ianto’s ribs. “Because I missed you. I missed Torchwood. I missed Earth. I missed the twenty-first century. I missed Owen and Tosh and Gwen.” He kissed Ianto again, slower and deeper. “I missed you, Ianto.”
Ianto closed his eyes, buried his face in Jack’s neck again, and wrapped his arms around him—loosening his grip when Jack inhaled with a hiss. “Sorry,” he muttered into Jack’s shoulder.
“It’s okay. It doesn’t hurt much.” He kissed the side of Ianto’s face. “You’re not just a part-time shag. You’re my friend. I care about you. I need you. I rely on you.” He gave Ianto more kisses and stroked his back. “You know me, Ianto.”
Ianto laughed quietly. “I do, and that’s why I wonder how long this will last.”
“Long enough,” Jack said, and cupped Ianto’s cheek when he lifted his head. “Are we okay?” Ianto nodded, afraid that if he spoke he’d start weeping. “Not sorry you brought me here?”
Ianto shook his head, allowing himself to smile. “I’m the only one I could trust to look after you properly.”
Jack chuckled, and then wavered on his feet and Ianto tightened his arms around him. “I need to lie down again,” Jack said apologetically. “Come to bed with me?”
Ianto nodded again, and kissed Jack lightly. He kept his arms around Jack and Jack leaned into him as they walked back to the cottage.
* * *
Kissing a man was so different from kissing a woman—Ianto was still reeling from this discovery. A man’s mouth could be soft, though, and sweet and hot, and as Ianto tasted Jack he was reminded of sunlit days, salty seas, the unshakable feeling of This is where I should be.
They had to go slowly, be gentle, and that was so different, too: they’d always come together like combustion before, like striking a flint against a stone. This time Ianto lingered, exploring and kissing, and Jack watched him with eyes the color of the horizon before reaching for him and whispering, “Come here.”
We have time, Ianto thought, over and over. We have time.
He was careful, so careful, pausing every time Jack’s gasps started to edge from pleasure to pain, until Jack finally grabbed his hips and said, “In me, dammit.”
Orders even while they were making love, but Ianto didn’t mind: Jack always knew best.
This time when he watched Jack sleep, Ianto was stretched out beside him, his head propped on his arm. Jack slept soundly, peacefully, his chest rising and falling in a steady rhythm. It matched the rhythm of the ocean, and Ianto joined him, letting the slow beat relax his body, his thoughts, his heart. It felt good to breathe in time with something so powerful and ancient, it felt right, it felt like being rocked to sleep.
Ianto lay on his back, closed his eyes and breathed with the waves.
* * *
“Ianto, where did you put—”
“In the suitcase.”
“Are you sure?”
“Everything’s in the suitcase.”
“Are you sure you’re sure?”
Ianto picked up the suitcase, carried it to the lounge, and put it on the floor in front of Jack. “Care to look for yourself?”
Jack beamed up at him. “I’ll believe you. And it’s all right with your uncle that I take the sweater?”
“Yes. It’s fine.” He went back into the bedroom and scanned the room one more time, making sure he was sure. And he was sure.
“Because it’s so hard to find a real Aran sweater,” Jack was saying when Ianto came back, and he pulled it over his head again. “And I even like the color.”
“It will make a great tent the next time we go camping,” Ianto said and was rewarded with another smile. He offered a hand to help Jack up.
Jack grasped it and stood, and kissed Ianto lightly. “Do we have everything?”
“Did you pack your toothbrush?”
“Then we have everything.” He held onto Jack’s hand and they leaned against each other a moment, and then Ianto picked up the suitcase and took it to th SUV. Jack waved off any assistance into the SUV and was waiting for him as Ianto tucked the key back into the flowerbox.
Ianto swung into the driver’s seat and took one last look at the cottage as Jack tuned the radio. Jack followed his gaze. “The honeymoon’s over.”
“Did we get married and I didn’t notice?” Ianto said.
“For a week time stood still. Kind of like a honeymoon. And now we go back to real life and everything starts up again.” He looked at Ianto and smiled. “Everything.”
“I look forward to it,” Ianto said and started the engine.
“Love one another, but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.”
— Kahlil Gibran